Cornelius Van Derbilt (1764-1832)

Cornelius van Derbilt, Farmer, of New Dorp, Staten Island, New York

His direct paternal ancestor, Jan Aertsen (1627-1705), was a native of De Bilt, a small village four miles east of Utrecht in Holland. Jan arrived in New Amsterdam at the age of 13 in 1640 as an indentured servant - too poor to pay for his passage he was contracted to work for three years for Peter Wholfertsen Van Couvenhoven at Brooklyn until his debt was repaid. To help distinguish him from the countless other arrivals whose names translated to "Jan, son of Aert" he was given the suffix "Van De Bilt" meaning, "Jan, son of Aert, from De Bilt," ie., Jan Aertsen Vanderbilt. Jan's eldest son, Aris (1653-1715), bought 60-acres of swampy forest at New Richmond on Staten Island. He never moved there, but his son, Jacobus (1692-1759), did and established the family there from 1715. It was here that Jacobus' grandson - this Cornelius, father of "The Commodore" - was born in 1764, and like his ancestors he was a simple farmer.

Cornelius' father died when he was four and he was brought up by his uncle for whom he worked in return for room and board. By the time he reached adulthood he had no land, barely a dime to his name, and was almost certainly illiterate. Despite this inauspicious start he managed to buy some land of his own and although the farm struggled he supplemented his income by taking goods to Manhattan on his Periauger (a small boat).
Contributed by Mark Meredith on 08/02/2019 and last updated on 16/10/2021.